Featured picture Pride and Prejudice

How to expand your English vocabulary with Pride and Prejudice

(You’ll find a short vocabulary list at the bottom of this article containing the underlined words. If there are any other words you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask).

Genre: Classics; Level B1+

Jane Austen is one of the most famous British authors. Even today, 200 years after her death her books are still known by many people in the UK, as well as abroad. That’s why I thought today we should look at how Jane Austen can help you improve your English vocabulary. Let us look together at her novel Pride and Prejudice.

What is the book about?

The book is about the nature and place of romantic love in rural Victorian England.

Austen wrote raw book in 1813 and it follows the stories of the two main characters Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet on their journey to destiny. Mr Darcy has to overcome his pride and Elizabeth her prejudice towards Mr Darcy in order for there to be a happy ending. Will they come together? Or will they still have problems with one another?

what do pride and prejudice mean in the book?

Pride and Prejudice play a big role in how this book flows. Mr Darcy is a man, who believes himself to be of a higher class and higher standard than Elizabeth Bennet. For this reason, he says at the beginning, “She is not handsome enough to tempt me”. From this, Mr Darcy shows that he is a bit snobbish when it comes to Elizabeth Bennet, her background and how she looks.

Elizabeth Bennet has many prejudices against Mr Darcy. She has a sharp tongue (sometimes she says things too quickly and without thinking). At times, she can also be seen as “too clever” for her own good, which leads her to make presumptions about Mr Darcy. Some of these are true, which lead her to reject Mr Darcy’s marriage proposal by saying, “might have felt… had you behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner”.

why Is pride and prejudice right for language learners?

Here are some reasons why the book is good for language learners:

  • Wide range of English vocabulary. Most of the vocabulary describes not only the behaviour of the characters, but the picturesque landscape.
  • Not any more difficult than reading newspapers. It has been argued that Pride and Prejudice is no more difficult to read than newspapers, so it is also good for language learners.
  • The story is so engaging that language learners at various levels can enjoy it without the need to understand every word.
  • Graded reader versions are also available so that you can work your way up to reading the full text. If you would like to know more about graded readers, read my previous blog post.

How can Pride and Prejudice Help me Expand my English vocabulary?

Pride and Prejudice was written in what many see as a golden age of British literature, and the emergence of the novel as a form of literature. Jane Austen, along with many other 19th Century women authors wanted to create masterpieces that would live on decades to come. Pride and Prejudice has become one of the most loved British classics to be ever written.

The vocabulary is intricate and describes the situation down to the last detail of what the characters wear, how they feel, what their surrounding looks like. Here is a quote from the book about Elizabeth and her mind:

“Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view”.

How can i improve my english with Pride and Prejudice?

You can learn a great deal about the language used to make descriptions of places, people, behaviour and feelings, because Austen describes everything in such a detailed fashion. Without the main themes of love, passion, pride and prejudice, the vocabulary would not have had so much detail. Here are some examples:

  • Haughty
  • Ardent
  • Assiduous
  • Distracted
  • Impropriety
  • Coquetry
  • Deference

For other examples of words and phrases that you can learn from this book, you can look the British Council website for an exercise on how to describe two of main characters’ appearance and behaviour. For more advanced learners, there is an exercise talking about the importance of love and marriage in the book.

How do I best learn English vocabulary?

There are many different ways to learn vocabulary. Here are a just a few ideas you could use:

  • Flashcards. Write the English word / phrase on a piece of paper. On the other side, you could either write the meaning in your native language or write a synonym (different meaning of the same word).
  • WLCR (Write, Look, Cover, Repeat). In this way, you will learn how to spell the word properly, making it easier to remember.
  • Find a context for the word. This way, it will be easier to know when it is appropriate to use a word or a phrase.
  • Sticky notes. This is my favourite way to learn vocabulary. Write down maximum of 10 words / phrases on sticky notes and put them up in your house, flat or room. Once you know the word / phrase off by heart, then take it off and put a new word or phrase up.

what other reasons are there for reading pride and prejudice?

Pride and Prejudice may be over 200 years old, but there are main themes that make it relevant. In one sense these themes are timeless:

  • Love
  • Marriage
  • Social status
  • Position of women in society

All the above remain relevant to our society today.

Love and marriage are evergreen topics people can always relate to.The position of women in society is still disputed or problematic in many countries. There are some societies in which women are still expected to stay at home and look after the children, just like in Austen’s time.

Finally, social mobility is still an issue in our society today. There is much evidence that many people who are born into one class find it hard to move up the social ladder.

Apart from these, the novel is a really good read and you will enjoy it!

How can I sound like a Brit?

With the free guide below, you find out how to sound more like a native Brit. Just click on the link below and download it!

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